How Quickly Things Change

April 16, 2012

Some people say that the new century didn’t really start till 9/11, and a case could be made for that. Certainly it was a seminal event that changed things in America forever, the way we conduct ourselves both at home and abroad, and the repercussions and backlash were felt, in turn, all over the civilized (and not so civilized) world. But life in America was changing in other ways even before the hyper-paranoia that set in following the infamous terrorist attack. Technology, it seems to me, was making advancements almost too rapidly for an old-school guy like me to keep up with. True, I’m only thirty years old, but already in my life I’ve seen the advent and ascension of the internet and the home computer, which then gave rise also to the I-Pod and the I-Pad and the I-phone, and will undoubtedly give rise in the immediate future to more advancements while I still haven’t gotten around to buying the current round of electronic junk. It’s kind of crazy to me to think that ten years ago a lot of people didn’t have cell phones, and now if you haven’t at least made that leap people look at you like you’re walking around in 19th century garb. Inventions have been making our lives easier (or, some would say, more complicated) in the past couple of hundred years especially, but it’s truly shocking to me how different an American kid coming up now has it versus what it was like just a couple of decades ago. In years past, horny teens had to steal a Penthouse from the drugstore or from under their older brother’s bed. Now they can just go online and see virtually everything under the sun. It’s as far away as the click of a mouse; it’s amazing that any of them find the time to do their homework once they reach puberty! And if the grownups put the parental control system in place, the kids can easily bypass it, because the average kid coming up these days is at least a proficient hacker. You’ve got little tykes hacking the Pentagon for fun, with one hand, the other clutching the third Red Bull of the day! In my time, Mortal Kombat was considered a violent video game. Now the graphics are so realistic in horror and first-person combat games that it’s no wonder kids are getting more and more desensitized, younger and younger. It brings to mind the movie Toys, where kids are being trained, unknowingly, to become a willing army through use of combat video games. Not unrealistic at all, now. The Army these days actually does use video games to recruit kids. I mean, why not? It makes perfect sense! And the nation’s attention span keeps getting shorter and shorter. This is true of kids, but adults too, as news cycles speed up increasingly due to social media making it possible for any important breaking story to fly around the world nearly instantaneously. The Trayvon Martin case was the latest one, but before that was Casey Anthony, Occupy Wall Street, Anthony Weiner…they all get their fifteen minutes, except now it’s more like fifteen seconds, because no matter how riveting the current one is, the next big scandal is right around the corner, and now who needs to actually watch the news on TV to get it? Let’s face it, who else besides an ever older demographic actually watches an hourly news show anymore on Fox, or CBS, or NBC, or any of the others? Kids just get their news from the internet like ordinary people, because, increasingly, that’s what’s become ordinary. Or if they haven’t heard about something just by surfing the net, someone is bound to send out a Tweet about it, and then they’ll join in the conversation. The information age has made it possible for anyone to say anything at any time. We’ve all become unpaid pundits, except if our opinions are loud and bombastic enough, someone might actually pay us to spout off at the mouth, like Bill O’Reilly or Shawn Hannity or Steve Ducey. We can all tell each other exactly what we’re thinking at any moment, and believe me, that’s not a good thing.

Of course, I’m no exception. I signed up for Twitter, I got my own website, and I’ve got a personal and “professional” Facebook page. I try to think of other ways to get my name out there, to get noticed. But there’s something I want to be clear about, and it’s the entire point I’m trying to make. In my case, I’m trying to get people to notice what I have to say because I’m an author, and I’m always trying to get published, so I can get paid, so I can support myself and my family. I’m not doing it just to hear myself talk. When I send tweets and when I think up inane things to post on Facebook, I freely acknowledge that what I have to say usually isn’t very interesting. But I feel like I have to do it to promote my work, and, unfortunately, myself, because one can’t be separated from the other. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it, and I don’t. I miss the way things were before. I’m pretty jaded, but I think it happens to kids faster and faster these days. This is the era of immediacy, and I, for one, wish things would slow down sometimes. I know they’re not going to. Technology will continue leaping and bounding forward, and I’ll try to keep up, like everyone else. But if the world really does end this year, all I have to say is, we were asking for it. I’m not going to be at all upset if the end of the Mayan calender looks like everybody thought Y2K was going to, with computers coming alive and trying to eat us, and airplanes falling out the sky. The lives of the survivors would be about immediacy then, but not the kind we’re experiencing now. I know I’d get a kick out of an ashy-faced kid sitting in a pile of dust-strewn rubble, trying to send out a last desperate tweet for help, while all the while being surrounded by hungry cannibals salivating for a taste of his tender flesh. OMG to that, indeed. And LOL, also.

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